“For this commission, the tires are about to hit the road as far as us actually acting on sports wagering applications.” That was the word from Thomas Brandt, chairman of Maryland’s Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC). SWARC is heading up Maryland’s plan to expand sports betting in the state with new facilities and online wagering.
Maryland joined the market in December 2021 by adding sports betting services at five casinos: MGM National Harbor, Live! Casino, Horseshoe Casino, Ocean Downs Casino and Hollywood Casino Perryville. Maryland-based Bingo World and Riverboat on the Potomac recently launched sport betting at their locations.
“We have four additional locations that have been approved,” said John Mooney, managing director of regulatory oversight for the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency. The new locations are Greenmount Station Restaurant in Hampstead, Long Shot’s of Frederick, The Jockey Bar and Grille OTB facility and Maryland Stadium Sub LLC, the designee of FedEx Field in Landover.
“They are going through a build out,” Mooney said at the SWARC meeting last week. “Hopefully they will be up and running soon, the four of them.” But you can’t put a sportsbook just anywhere.
New facility applicants are required to notify Lottery and Gaming of the physical address for their sportsbook, “so that we can make sure it is not in any exclusion zones,” said Jim Nielsen, deputy director of the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency. The commission has set Oct. 21 as the due date for all new applications. The state is ready to award up to 30 facility licenses and 60 mobile for Maryland betting apps.
Online sportsbooks to launch as applications are approved
“We don’t believe that there should be a universal award date for licenses,” Nielson said. “The primary reason for that is because a single applicant who struggles with their E-licensing submission or answering questions or other various issues that they have to complete before they are awarded license, one applicant could hold up the entire industry from starting. So, a universal award date just seems like it’s got a lot of inherent risk that we would recommend against.”
“If SWARC does not receive more applications than the licenses permitted, namely 30 facilities and 60 mobile, it may be desirable and arguably beneficial for SWARC to award licenses to applicants on a rolling basis,” said Nielsen.
“We all know that the public is clamoring to get sports betting, we get comments about why it hasn’t launched yet every day,” Nielson added. “SWARC can make mobile sports betting available somewhat sooner by awarding licenses on a rolling basis. If we don’t get 60 applications, anyone that submits a timely and acceptable application may be awarded a license. For the mobiles, there’s little if any construction or innovation that they’re gonna need to do, so they can move faster than some of the Class B operations that we’ve seen.”
Chairman Brandt encouraged commission members to use all available resources while reviewing applications to prevent a slowdown in launching sports wagering. “I would just invite you to elaborate on the resources you’ve brought to bear so that this process is not a bottleneck in September 2022 as we’re trying to enable some sports wagering in Maryland,” Brandt said.
Cezar Froeliuch backed the chairman’s invite saying, “We will have a full staff reviewing those, we’re gonna bring in various experts to assist us in it. So we do not believe there will be a bottleneck.” Froeliuch is an attorney with Taft law firm and a consultant to the commission.
“When we get the applications on the 21st, well, we obviously can receive them sooner, but I suspect we’re gonna get a significant chunk of them at 5 p.m. on the 21st if history is anything to repeat itself because that’s what we’ve seen in most other jurisdictions,” said Kimberly Copp, an attorney with Taft law firm.